Thursday, 11 September 2008

Fudging evolution

Michael Reiss, Director of Education at the Royal Society, recommends giving space to creationism and intelligent design in science lessons, here.

He does not suggest that such theories might be correct, nor that they should be put on a par with evolution. His point seems to be that those who come to the subject with such views need to have those views respected, otherwise they will be unreceptive.

As a matter of educational psychology, he may have a point. But this must not detract from the fact that evolution has trumped the alternatives as comprehensively as round-earthism has trumped flat-earthism. Should we respect the views of a student who brings a flat-earth view to a geography lesson?

I fear a deplorable fudge. Reiss suggests seeing creationism “not as a misconception but as a world view”. But creationism and intelligent design are mere hand-waving which contribute absolutely nothing to our understanding of life-forms. We must face the need to say to some students “If your religion leads you to reject evolution, then there is something deeply wrong with your religion. It does not merely make a factual mistake on this point. It also encourages a wilful disregard of evidence”. To fail to say that to the student would be to evade the central issue.